The morning sun hits the dome of the Capitol on a day where House Republicans will hold a closed conference meeting to vote by secret ballot to nominate a House speaker, at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 11, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

ATLANTA — The two Republicans who made the June 18 primary runoff in Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District agreed on more issues than they disagreed on during a debate Sunday sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club.

Former state Sen. Mike Dugan and Brian Jack, an aide to former President Donald Trump, agreed on the need to secure America’s southern border, change the way the U.S. is sending military aid to Ukraine, and curb spending on student loans.

Dugan, who served two terms under the Gold Dome as Senate majority leader before leaving the General Assembly earlier this year to run for Congress, called illegal immigration a public safety, humanitarian, and national security issue.

But Dugan said there is a need for Congress to pass immigration reform after securing the border.

“We need new people coming into this country, skill sets we don’t have readily available,” he said.

Jack said stopping illegal immigration should be a priority over continuing to spend money on weapons to send to Ukraine.

“I’d rather see funding to secure our southern border,” he said.

Both candidates suggested the U.S. should adopt a lend-lease program to aid Ukraine, modeled after what America did to help Great Britain during the early stages of World War II.

The two also took a hard line on federal funding for student loans.

“We should do everything we can to remove the federal government from the business of education,” Jack said. 

“Nobody is forced to take a student loan,” Dugan added.

While Dugan and Jack agreed during much of the debate, the gloves did come off at times. Dugan accused Jack of being a Washington, D.C., insider with no experience holding elective office whose campaign is being funded largely with donations from out of state.

“Eighty percent of my money comes from Georgia,” Dugan said. “It’s important, if we’re going to represent the 3rd District, that the funding come from the 3rd District.”

Jack touted his endorsement by Trump and by two of his opponents in last month’s primary who didn’t make the runoff: former state Sen. Mike Crane and former state Rep. Philip Singleton.

“That shows an ability to work across a different spectrum,” Jack said.

Jack criticized Dugan for voting in 2015 in favor of a $900 million transportation funding bill, which Jack called the largest tax increase in Georgia history.

Dugan responded that he voted for tax cuts that returned $2 billion in excess revenue to Georgia taxpayers.

The two candidates also promised not to use the congressional seat to shine a spotlight on themselves in the manner of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, who is vacating the 3rd District seat at the end of this year, set a low profile during eight years in Congress.

“My goal is to get stuff done, not go up there and be a TV star,” Dugan said. 

Jack noted that his name did not show up in the media when he was working in the Trump administration.

“I put my head down to try to do the job for the American people,” he said.

The winner of the Republican runoff will face Democrat Maura Keller in November. The heavily Republican 3rd Congressional District in west-central Georgia stretches from Paulding and Polk counties south to Columbus.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Capitol Beat.